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jmercadoBy Juan Mercado
MANILA – Charter change is not “the threshold at which all other hopes begin.” Life is. Nor is an overhauled constitution the most telling indicator of advance — or setback. Life expectancy is.

Filipinos with the longest life spans are in La Union, says _Philippine Human Development Report 2008 2009. “On average those born in 2006 in La Union are expected to live 74.6 years”, like Ecuadorians.

In contrast, Tawi-Tawi life expectancy is like that of Djibouti in Africa : 53.4 years. That’s two decades shorter than Bulacan’s 73.4. “Those expected to live the shortest” are in Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao’s conflict-savaged provinces or Cordillera Administrative Region’s backwaters. Is this a twilight zone of shriveled hopes?

Filipino scientists cobble PHDRs within the Human Development Network. The first of these biennial studies came in 1990. UN Development Programme and New Zealand co-sponsored this latest edition..

PHDR and the global “Human Development Report” go beyond usual measuring tools, e.g. gross domestic product. They apply “human development indices”. HDIs factor in schooling, poverty, health – and life spans.

“Long lifers” also cluster in Ilocos Norte, Camarines Sur, Cebu, Batangas, Pampanga, Cagayan and Albay, Life expectancy, in these provinces, is in the 70’s – and climbing.

This still lags behind an Icelander’s 81 years.

Truncated lives are in Ifugao, Kalinga, Apayao and Mt. Province, and Agusan del Norte. Their life expectancies hover in the 60s, often below. They are where Pakistan and Eritea are wedged today. “”Tawi-Tawi, Sulu, Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur are worst off “

“Differences in homes, clothing or even menus are galling enough”, the late National Scientist Dioscoro Umali wrote. “But denial of life itself and premature graves are an obscene injustice…These are death sentences. And they cut into the very depths of our common humanity. “

‘Nationwide, “Filipinos born in 2006 will live, on average, about eight years longer compared to those born in 1980,”  PHDR notes. “Between 1980 and 2006, life expectancy improved by roughly three years for every decade.”

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